Think about debt owed to troops

May 23, 2009

We say it every year. And it can feel like a cliché.

But it’s not.

It’s more like a ritual.

Memorial Day may be known unofficially as the kick off to the summer season, but it’s meant to mark a more solemn occasion. We’re meant to memorialize those who died for our freedom.

On Friday, as they do every year, Newport Harbor High School students gathered together to hear a veteran talk about what Memorial Day really means. This year it was Harry Selling, a World War II veteran.


What struck us about Selling’s story is that even 65 years later as he talked about being taken a prisoner of war near Berlin his emotions threatened to overwhelm him.

“I don’t think I can finish this,” he said, choking back tears.

How can anyone not respond to that?

Or how about this? Three of our troops were killed in a roadside bombing in Iraq on Thursday.

Officially, as of Friday night, the U.S. death toll in Iraq stood at 4,299 with four pending confirmation.

In Afghanistan, where we’ve heard the violence has heightened, 689 U.S. soldiers have given their lives.

As Selling told his audience, “Freedom is not free. It’s paid for with lives, injury and debt.”

Debt. That’s a word we’d all like to forget this weekend as we focus on our recreational plans. But it remains in the back of our thoughts.

Yes, we’ve taken on a great debt in the war on terrorism. On multiple levels. And while some of us may even engage in a spirited debate about what our country ought to do militarily in the Middle East going forward, we all share one thing in common: We are grateful for all of those men and women who gave their lives defending our liberty since 1776.

So go ahead, have a great weekend. Enjoy the beach. Hike with your friends in the mountains. Catch up with good friends at a backyard barbecue.

But just do one small thing. Take a moment or two and just think of the fallen who died for your freedom. That sort of love — love of country — is a worthy thing to celebrate and to solemnly memorialize.

It’s the very least we can do.

But if the spirit to do more moves you, send a letter or care package to our troops. They would surely appreciate it.

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